The Best Way to Explore a Country – by Bicycle

by | Feb 11, 2022 | Mexico | 1 comment

Exploring Your Host Country by Bicycle

There is nothing more joyful than spending a day on the bike exploring back roads and being intimate with a new country.

Our Sunday forays on the bicycle release us from Oaxaca city and have stretched into all-day wanderings from 30K to 60K explorations of the surrounding countryside.

Riding the backroads of Oaxaca photo by gwen Hyatt
Riding the backroads of Oaxaca photo by Gwen Hyatt

I rent a turquoise (it had my name on it) Orbea mountain bike for these excursions, as many of the dirt and gravel roads are scattered with potholes and debris.

Mexico is not optimal for road cycling.

The ciclovia, a gritty, multi-use trail that runs down the center of a meridian on a busy four-lane road, transports us out of the city to el campo (the country).

Our first destination is Santa Maria el Tule, home to the largest tree in the world and surrounded by a stunning church, gardens, and community park.

From el Tule we climb to the Capilla (chapel) Virgen de Juquilla and the trailhead to las piedras (the rocks).

Traversing east on dirt roads, we meander through fertile agricultural areas, small farms, and numerous pueblos.

Copella de Vergen Juquilla photo by Gwen Hyatt
Copella de Vergen Juquilla photo by Gwen Hyatt

Respeto, actuar sin perjudicar a los demás (Respect, to act without harming others).

This phrase, painted on a wall in pueblo Rojas de Cuauhtemoc, is reflective of the social and cultural norms of the local people who reside in the small pueblos throughout the country or Oaxaca.

A church and main square grace the center of each pueblo, many with massive trees and a town square or park, which provide lugares publicos (public places) for the local community.

Small tiendas, produce stands, carnicerias, auto/equipment repair shops, food carts, and an assortment of vintage VW buses and beetles line the roadways surrounding the town center.

Small tiendas and vintage VWs photo by Gwen Hyatt
Small tiendas and vintage VWs photo by Gwen Hyatt

Riding with local bike groups or inquiring at bike shops are excellent ways to get acquainted with the best countryside roads and to avoid busy highways.

The app charts routes specifically for road or mountain bikes. I also use google maps with Google Fi on my phone when needing to decide which crossroads may be the best option or when picking a road leading to a pueblo. Forks in the road often lead to lesser-traveled pathways, new sights, and discoveries.

Each ride includes a relaxing stop for local food and a thirst-quenching cerveza or liquado (fresh fruit flavored water) before returning to Oaxaca city.

Last week our destination was Teotitlan de Valle, home of the famous wool weavers. This week, we explored the opposite side of the valley, riding to San Sebastian Teitipac and through 6-7 small pueblos.

Local bike group in Oaxaca photo by Gwen Hyatt
Local bike group in Oaxaca photo by Gwen Hyatt

The best place to rent a bike in Oaxaca city for this type of excursion is with Pedro Martinez.

He carries high-quality Orbea mountain bikes that are clean and well maintained.

The rental includes essential equipment (helmet, tire irons, spare tube, and pump). In addition, wear sunscreen and sunglasses and take ample water, a snack, and a phone for emergencies.

Pedro’s company also offers bike tours of the area if you feel more comfortable riding in an organized tour.

Pedro and Teresa are welcoming, friendly folk sharing conversations and routes.

Now it is your turn, take a day, rent a bike and go explore. You won’t be disappointed. Let us know about bicycle adventures in your neck of the woods.

by: Gwen Hyatt